WhatsApp is working on a new “Audio Chats” feature for Android

Instant messaging app WhatsApp is working on a new “audio chats” feature for Android and may release it in a future update. The new feature was discovered during the beta testing of version of the app. Although not much is known about this new feature yet, it appears to be WhatsApp’s version of Twitter Spaces.

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How are WhatsApp “audio chats” different from voice calls?

In recent screenshots, the audio chat waveform icon finds its way into the chat header, right next to the video call icon. Tapping on the waveform icon will bring up the option to call the group or open “Audio Chat”. Another screenshot shows the end call icon at the top of the chat header. There is some empty space on the left side of the icon and it will likely be filled with some graphics. It is believed that this could be the audio chat toolbar where a live waveform would be visible during an ongoing audio chat. Users can browse the app while the toolbar remains fixed at the top of the screen.

Image source: WABetaInfo

How are audio chats different from regular voice calls on WhatsApp? While a voice call makes each group member an active participant in the conversation, audio chats allow group members to overhear a conversation without participating. The listeners can join and leave the conversation at any time. This is similar to how Twitter Spaces and Clubhouse work. Unlike a normal group voice call, with an audio chat you don’t get a constant ring notification.

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Currently, the feature seems to be in an early stage of development. As can be seen from the screenshots, the UI is far from finished. The toolbar still needs some additions and WhatsApp can even reposition certain features in the chat header. It is also possible that this feature will not be officially released. WhatsApp could very well scrap it in the beta testing phase.

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While there’s been a lot of speculation about this new feature, it makes sense to include it in WhatsApp’s recently introduced Communities section. While voice calls will remain the main form of audio conversations in small groups, audio chats will be appropriate for large communities where moderating a group voice call can prove tedious.

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